Pipes Hat Mountain

Richard Berman - You, Me, and Bobby McGee

Go listen to this song by Richard Berman.

I discovered it on my local public radio station as I was driving home from work this evening, and I sat in my driveway listening until it ended. Somehow it was just the right set of thoughts for right now.

So much about this time of year makes me wistful... A time of wondering, remembering, wishing. Giving thanks, too.

There are songs I've heard
I may not know all the words
Still, when I hear them, they're old friends.
Some awaken memories
Like the song 'bout Bobby McGee
It brings you back to me again.

If I close my eyes
I can still see that ride
Midnight past the shore of Coeur d'Alene.
The moon was on the lake
I could glimpse its silver face
And yours in shades of grey.

Feeling good was easy then, so easy to be fooled;
I was sure: love endures.
There's no trading my tomorrows for those yesterdays with you
If I could, I surely would.

You'd rolled my sweater in a ball
Your pillow against the door
Sleeping as we climbed the bitter routes.
I had switched the radio on
It softly offered up its songs
I hummed on some I knew.

Then came this song I didn't know
About a lover and her beau
Thumbing down a diesel in Baton Rouge.
I especially liked that line
About the wipers slapping time
As those lovers sang every song that driver knew.

"Freedom's just a word," she sang, "for nothing left to lose"
I didn't know if that was so.
Never crossed my mind, back then, that one day I'd lose you
And there I'd be: alone and free.

We sang songs, you and I
For a good part of our ride;
Seemed to me we were singing right on key.
But what did I know of love?
I thought we had enough
What we had was only good enough for me.

No big goodbye;
Our hug was gentle that last time.
I said I hoped you'd find the love you sought.
You never did look back;
I watched you fade into my past,
That sweater on your shoulders like a shawl.

I wonder, have you ever driven late into the night with the radio on,
And you hear this song,
And you find that you are smiling as you're drawn back to our ride
For a moment in time, you have regrets like mine.

There are songs I've heard
I may not know all the words
Still, when I hear them, they're old friends.
Some awaken memories
Like this one 'bout Bobby McGee
It brings you back to me again.
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    Richard Berman - You, Me, and Bobby McGee
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Pipes Hat Mountain

Yes we did.

I cried twice yesterday. Once during McCain's speech; once during Obama's. That seems about right, really.

We did this. In ways large and small, we did this. For the first time in a long time, I feel proud to say I'm a U.S. citizen.

When I moved to Scotland in 2003, we had just invaded Iraq, and we had begun our long slide into governmental mediocrity. The day I moved into my flat, our building's cleaning lady introduced herself to me; when she found out I was American, her first words were "Your president's a fuckin' dumbass!" I couldn't say much, since bashing one's president while living abroad is sometimes a risky choice, but I agreed.

Throughout my time there, our reputation as Americans slid. I knew I'd become really accepted by my friends when they started inviting me to do things with THEIR friends... but there was another piece. They started introducing me as a Canadian.

Why? Because even in Scotland, part of our closest international ally, people knew that Americans were bigoted warmongers. My friends knew I wasn't that, and they didn't want their friends to judge me, so they called me a Canadian. I always corrected them, of course.

But some of it was true. I was more Canadian than U.S. at that point, at least in terms of prevailing ideology. It was a difficult time. I was, frankly, ashamed of us.

And today I am so very proud.

We did this. And even if nothing else changes, even if so many of our fears come true and someone assassinates him, even if the economy continues to worsen (as it doubtless will, for a while), even if all of that, nothing can erase this.

And finally, perhaps, I can watch The American President, Dave, and The West Wing without wishing for the opportunity to believe in a President like that. I've got one.
  • Current Music
    Martin Sexton - Diner
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Spotted Dick

LiveJournal is being sneaky and backwards


This might be relevant to some of you. It's interesting to me because it showcases some issues we've been discussing in my leadership class. Specifically, it does a terrible job of enlisting support of others and of behaving with honesty and integrity.

LJ is getting rid of Basic (formerly called Free) accounts. For the moment, they're just making it so you can't make a new one, but there's orthography on the wall suggesting that those of us who have Basic accounts now will, eventually, lose them. It seems as though this is a move to raise revenue through increased ad impressions.

My own feelings on it are: I understand that they don't earn anything from Basic LJs, at least not directly. People with better Economics degrees than mine can talk about network effects, the concept of lots of free content leading to more paid users, etc., but I don't know for sure. I can see truth in the idea that they need to charge money to maintain the servers and the net connections.

But the fact that they created an Advisory Board for this sort of issue, then summarily ignored its inputs and tried to pass of the (rather major) change as a mere streamlining and simplification pisses me off. That's called lying. And the concept of loudly saying one thing while quietly doing another resonates especially well in the Week of Eliot Spitzer.

Alcohol stove

seven quirky facts

(tagged by kazulrw)

A. List seven habits/quirks/facts about yourself.
B. Tag seven people to do the same.
C. Do not tag the person who tagged you or say that you tag "whoever wants to do it."

1. Sometimes, when really bad things are happening, I find myself believing that it's all a fantasy, and that someone will soon hit "reset" and give us a chance to act differently. This is problematic during arguments, because I'll feel that we should stop, having explained the important bits, and then restart with the understanding but without the argument. I guess it's sometimes hard to take life seriously, because I feel like it will come around again.

2. I have cyclical attention-deficit disorder for hobbies. I'll get really interested in something, then put it down for a while, and eventually return to it. Often, this cycle spans years or even decades. It's a bit unusual how often some old interest reappears in my life as a current fixation. (vis. my current love of fountain pens and ink.)

3. I am scared of heights. Despite this, I have learned to rock climb, and have also earned a pilot's license. I actually started rock climbing to see if I could temper my acrophobia at all.

4. From a very early age--as early as I can remember thinking--I struggled with a philosophical problem I later learned to call the Chinese Room. For me, it always manifested with colors. I went through my childhood wondering whether the color I saw as "green" actually looked "green" to other people, or whether they simply saw it as "blue" or "asfsaf" but were otherwise consistent, or whether the other people were just acting normally to confuse me.

5. I have strong visual memory for navigation, such that if I've driven somewhere, even on a trip years ago spanning hundreds of miles, I can remember the sequence of turns to be made. Often these come to me as snapshots or short movies when thinking about a person or reason for travel; one of my "trips from Swarthmore" movies involves helping Rabi put her CD collection into her family's car when she lived in ML. I haven't been to runnerchild's house in a long time, but I could drive it without consulting a map or a road sign.

6. I get migraines from many sources, including fluorescent lights. It's the low-grade strobing effect of them. My peripheral vision picks up their flicker, and it unhinges my brain in some interesting ways.

7. I am a secret master of the Alpine Filing System. Much of my life is organized into piles, and I don't use "organized" mockingly. I can tell you what's in my piles, and I remember things years after they've been stashed somewhere. I am training myself to use more conventional filing systems, but good ol' AFS remains a trusted standby.

I was surprised by how many of my quirky things concerned memory. I guess that's good, and it remains a constant joy to have access to memory at all. I lost a lot of it during the time when I was really sick with mono, and a lot of things that happened during that period are still fuzzy, with names and faces gone. From the original prognosis, I'm halfway there: back to normal in 2.5 more years. Even this, though, is such an improvement. Here's to memory, and quirks.

I'll tag allypopsicle, invisibleowl, runnerchild, stepleton, wannabeartist, katietunning, and withunderscores, since it's clearly important to follow the rules and nominate exactly seven. For the rest of you, please feel free to contribute as well.
  • Current Music
    Sara Bareilles
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Spotted Dick

conversational nukes

Can I just say how tired I am of people using "well you wouldn't have those freedoms if it weren't for our soldiers defending your liberty" as a rebuttal for every. single. possible. complaint people have against the current administration?

Like, guess what, we had soldiers when Clinton was President, too. How come he got impeached, but if someone wants to say "it wasn't really necessary for Bush to say 'Bring It On' to the terrorists," it's unpatriotic to disrespect the soldiers?

I mean, which one has a higher likelihood of getting soldiers killed? Blowjob or bring it on?

Conversational nuke! It's like the new form of Godwin's Law.
Spotted Dick

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, you suck.

So, last Thursday (1/10/2008), I flew a friend to Burlington, VT, for some medical treatment. We landed at around 11:20, rented a car, and headed to the hospital. We returned the car at about 2:00 and flew home. It was a great day for it!

Skilled mathematicians will note that I had the car for approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, which corresponds to $39 at their hourly rate of $15/hour.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised to discover a charge for $303.15 on my credit card today. With their daily rate of $49.99/day, that means I was charged for 6.1 days of car time. Pretty good return on investment!

To say that I am unimpressed is to understate the case somewhat. I'm currently being allowed to leave voice mail messages for people in the Enterprise hierarchy.

Good times.

On finding ways to see people

So, I intended to go to Alumni Weekend this coming summer, but it turned out that I had booked a gig for that weekend before I'd know that it was That Weekend. This bums me out, because I was really hoping to go and see people.

I just got really excited about English-Scottish Ball, thinking that I'd drive down to see people then. So I go look it up, and I discover that, lo, E-S Ball is on the same weekend as Reachout's three-day-long Training Weekend that I run. So no dice there.

O friends, do you have any suggestions? Other than figuring out the whole Time Turner thing, which would be neat-if-impractical at this juncture?

The usefulness of uselessness

O friends,

In the course of cleaning old papers, I ran across my printed copy of Professor Kitao's essay entitled "The Usefulness of Uselessness". I remember that Swat had many pamphlets printed in that same garnet and ivory, covering all sorts of topics. Somehow, this one made it into my "take home" pile.

You can read it online if you'd like. I just re-read it, and found some balm for an old ache there.

You see, I've been beating myself up about not being what I consider a good academic anymore. Sure, I've been doing lots of things, earned a pilot's license, am an officer of the national organization in my profession, and learned lots of things. But I'm not a good scholar of music or computer science anymore, and certainly not of theatre or religion or anything else I studied in college.

And yet I'm still a smart person, I guess. Lately I've heard more and more people remarking on how quickly I seem to pick up new things, and how it seems like information goes in and stays. (Those of you who remember what mononucleosis did to my mind and memory will understand how profoundly grateful I am to be hearing these things again).

And I've spent a while thinking about why those things happens. As so often occurs, a perfect reference appears once you're far along the thought path. Kitao writes:

Years after graduation, students may forget the subject--the facts and details they studied so hard for their exams--unless they continue refreshing them by having gone into that field. But the way of thinking they assimilated stays. . . . Learning how to learn by learning how to think makes a well-educated person. If that is all it does, it still is of value. But learning how to learn not only expands the mind. It also gives you a lifelong asset. Once you have it, like it or not, it stays with you for the rest of your life. That's the true value and reward that college courses have to offer, even though sometimes, perhaps most of the time, they may appear to be lacking in usefulness.

And as I read, I think, "yes". Thank you, Swarthmore.

on yearbooks and life

I've spent a lot of time cleaning lately, working on getting things into a better order. Not spring, but I feel this instinctive need for it lately. At the bottom of a long-present pile, I found an unopened box from Swarthmore. Inside it, the 2003 Halcyon.

I saw many old friends, lots of whom I've come to miss more than I'd thought possible, but I always see a change in myself. All the pictures of me show a serious person without much of a smile. I wonder if that's how people knew me in college.

And I wonder why it took so long to learn how to laugh at the world, how to smile at it, and how to disengage a bit. There's further still to go, of course, but the journey begins with a few steps, right?

I miss you, friends. How are you?